SpaceX Sends Dscovr to L-1; First-stage Landing Attempt Scrubbed

March 16, 2017 – 09:12 pm

A satellite conceived by then-Vice President Al Gore 17 years ago as a real-time whole-Earth imager, and later converted to an early warning "buoy" for solar storms, is on its way to its parking spot 1 million mi. from Earth after launch on a Falcon 9.

As the two-year, $340 million mission of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (Dscovr) got underway, controllers at the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California, monitored another attempt to fly a Falcon 9 first stage back to a zero-velocity, tail-down touchdown at sea. But they abandoned a second attempt to land on a special barge because of rough seas in the landing zone about 370 mi. down range from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Because of the velocity required for the mission to Discovr parking spot — the Sun-Earth L-1 Lagrangian point where the gravitational interaction of the two bodies allows a stable orbit around a fixed point in space — the reentry speed was about twice that of the previous attempt Jan. 10 on a space-station resupply mission, and SpaceX had estimated only a 50-50 chance of a successful landing had one been attempted.

Liftoff into the instantaneous launch window required for the L-1 target came at 6:03 p.m. EST, as the Sun was setting behind the launch pad. The launch was scrubbed shortly before an attempt on Feb. 8 because of a tracking issue on the range, and a second attempt was scrubbed Feb. 10 due to upper-level winds.

According to a timeline outlined Feb. 7 by Hans Koenigsmann, the vice president of mission assurance at SpaceX, the nine Merlin first-stage engines burned for 165 sec., followed by stage separation and ignition of the single Merlin in the second stage. Forty seconds into that burn, the fairing shielding the 1, 257-lb. (570 kg) spacecraft was jettisoned, and 8 min. after that, the second stage engine shut down for a 22-min. coast. A final burn sent Dscovr on its 110-day transit way to L-1, and spacecraft separation came 35 min. after liftoff.


Source: aviationweek.com

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